Sports History This Week brings to life moments in competition that redefined sports and our culture. Every week, host Kaelen Jones will unpack one sporting event that occurred within that calendar week sometime in the past. Through gripping narratives, illustrative archival and interviews with athletes and experts, Jones will guide listeners through the pivotal triumphs, failures and turning points that shaped today’s sports world and beyond.
Listen to Season 1
Looking Back at Sports History
August 16th, 2023. Over the past 16 months, Sports History This Week has covered sporting events from football to baseball to roller derby to a man skydiving from outer space. It has been an absolute joy working on the show, and we've loved hearing from the listeners along the way.
In this episode, you'll hear from the team who produces and writes the show: what we loved, what we learned, and what we wished we had a chance to do. Thank you all for listening, and just know that we'll be watching the next big sports history moment as it unfolds.
Special thanks to the Sports History This Week team: Jonah Buchanan, associate producer: Ben Dickstein, senior producer; Emma Fredericks, associate producer; David Ingber, producer; Kaelen Jones, host; Jessie Katz, executive producer; Cooper Katz McKim, producer; McCamey Lynn, supervising producer; Hazel May, associate producer; and Julia Press, story editor.
“The Great One” Becomes a King
August 9, 1988: Coming off their fourth Stanley Cup win in the last five seasons, the Edmonton Oilers do the unthinkable: trade Wayne Gretzky, hockey’s biggest superstar. Just as he’s entering his competitive peak, Gretzky departs a team where he looked like the centerpiece of a budding dynasty. And his destination is the Los Angeles Kings… in a city that barely knows it has a hockey team.
Today, hockey changes forever, as Canada loses its greatest son to the United States. Why would the Oilers trade Gretzky? And how does Gretzky’s move reshape the entire NHL?
Special thanks to our guests: David Staples, columnist for The Edmonton Journal; Bruce McNall, former owner of the L.A. Kings and co-chair of A-Mark Entertainment; Luc Robitaille, NHL Hall of Famer and president of the L.A. Kings; and Bernie Nicholls, retired All-Star NHL center.
Street Fighter’s EVO Moment #37 (ft. Justin Wong & Daigo Umehara)
August 1, 2004. Before esports became a billion-dollar industry, a few college halls in Southern California hosted a video game tournament: the Evolution Championship Series. Justin Wong is facing Daigo Umehara in the semifinals in Street Fighter III. Surprisingly, Wong has Umehara on the ropes. He goes in for a game-ending move when something unimaginable happens.
Today, the moment that changes fighting games forever. When EVO Moment #37 takes the world by storm, it helps revive a struggling video game franchise. How does the moment come to be? And why does it have such a huge impact on the gaming community and beyond?
Special thanks to our guests: Glenn Cravens, author of “EVO Moment #37: One of the Most Famous Moments in Competitive Gaming History”; David Graham, gamer, lawyer and EVO Tournament commentator; Daigo Umehara, professional gamer; and Justin Wong, professional gamer.
Barry Sanders Retires in His Prime
July 27, 1999. Barry Sanders, star running back of the Detroit Lions, writes a letter announcing his intentions to abruptly retire from the NFL. At just 31 years old, one of the game’s top players is ready to hang it up and walk away — on his own terms.
Today, Barry Sanders stuns his teammates, his fans, and the entire football world. How did Barry Sanders become one of his era's most dominant offensive weapons? And what factors contributed to him retiring from football, at the peak of his powers?
Special thanks to our guests: Charlie Batch, former NFL quarterback; Alex Kirschner and Richard Johnson, co-hosts of the “Split Zone Duo: College Football Podcast”; Pat Jones, former college football and NFL coach; and Scott Mitchell, former NFL quarterback.
Seattle Loses the Supersonics (ft. Damien Wilkins)
July 18, 2006. The owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, Howard Schultz, calls a press conference. Ever since the Starbucks chairman took over the team, he's been hemorrhaging money. Now, Schultz has run out of patience too. He's selling the team... to out-of-town buyers.
Today, the SuperSonics are sold out. The franchise delivered Seattle its first pro sports championship, was a cultural touchstone, and produced superstars like Gary Payton. Fans are desperate to keep the Sonics in town. So why do they leave?
Special thanks to our guests: Adam Brown, producer of the Webby Award-winning film "SonicsGate"; Chris Daniels, longtime Seattle reporter and host of the podcast “Iconic Sonics"; Loren “Big Lo” Sandretzky, Sonics superfan; and Damien Wilkins, former Seattle SuperSonic.
Chastain’s World Cup Winner (ft. Kristine Lilly & Briana Scurry)
July 10, 1999. It’s 107 degrees on the soccer field in Pasadena, California, at third-ever Women’s World Cup. The US Women’s National Team is stuck in a scoreless tie against China.
Just a few years earlier, these teams were playing in stadiums that looked like they belonged to the local high school. Now? They’re playing in front of 90,000 screaming fans, desperate to see the U.S. come out on top.
Today, the U.S. Women’s National Team puts the finishing touches on one of the most iconic tournament runs in American soccer history. How was this team able to vault women’s soccer to a level most would have thought impossible? And how has the sport changed in the 24 years since?
Special thanks to our guests: Julie Kliegman, copy chief for Sports Illustrated; Kristine Lilly, former USWNT midfielder; Briana Scurry, former USWNT goalkeeper; and Amy Shipley, former sports reporter for the Washington Post.
Kobayashi Arrested at the Hot Dog Eating Contest (ft. Takeru Kobayashi & Joey Chestnut)
July 4, 2010. Nathan’s Famous is holding its annual hot dog eating competition on Coney Island. But this year, one perennial champion is not taking the stage: Takeru Kobayashi. The legendary eater destroyed competition for six years in a row, launching him into international stardom. But then, things start to go wrong.
Today, Takeru Kobayashi looks to make a statement. In front of thousands of spectators, Kobayashi gets arrested at the very competition he used to dominate. Why is there so much drama at a hot dog eating contest? And how does the original competitive eating superstar get to this point?
Special thanks to our guests: Yukako Maggie James, Kobayashi’s former manager and wife; Takeru Kobayashi, competitive eater; Gersh Kuntzman, longtime New York journalist; Joey Chestnut, competitive eater; Ryan Nerz, author of “Eat This Book, A Year of Gorging and Glory On the Competitive Eating Circuit”; Noriko Okubo, Kobayashi’s interpreter and agent; George Shea, chair of Major League Eating.
Maddux Throws a Maddux (ft. Greg Maddux)
July 2, 1997. Atlanta Braves ace Greg Maddux takes the mound for a regular-season start against the defending champion New York Yankees. And in typical Maddux fashion, he starts making quick work of the Yankees lineup. In fact, he gets through the game so quickly, that Major League Baseball would eventually add a new stat into its official glossary to commemorate this, and other performances like it.
Today, Greg Maddux inspires a baseball writer named Jason Lukehart to create a statistic called “The Maddux.” So what exactly is a “Maddux”? And how did coaching and strategizing in the sport of baseball eventually lead to the abandonment of the techniques that made Maddux so successful?
Special thanks to our guests: Anthony Castrovince, writer for MLB.com; Jason Lukehart, baseball writer and inventor of “The Maddux” baseball statistic; Greg Maddux, four-time Cy Young Award winner, Hall of Famer, and namesake of “The Maddux”; and Jameson Taillon, pitcher for the Chicago Cubs.
F1 Wrecks Its Chance in America
June 19, 2005. Formula 1 is hosting its U.S. Grand Prix at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For years, F1 has desperately tried to establish a foothold in America, and heading into this race, there’s real momentum — until there’s a major problem.
Today, F1’s nightmare at the U.S. Grand Prix. More than a 100,000 spectators show up to a race that becomes a disaster. How do things go so wrong? And how will this race affect F1’s future in America?.
Special thanks to our guests: Herbie Blash, former deputy race director of the FIA; Tony Dodgins, F1 journalist; John Howett, former president of Toyota Motorsport Germany; and Joe Saward, F1 journalist.
Michael Jordan Completes His Return from Baseball
June 16, 1996. Michael Jordan leads the Chicago Bulls to their fourth NBA Championship. Many basketball fans consider 1995-96 to be Jordan’s best individual season, and that Bulls squad as perhaps the greatest in the history of team sports.
But behind the scenes, Jordan is still grieving over the death of his father, a traumatic event that led to him stepping away from basketball for over a year to pursue professional baseball. Without him, the Bulls fall into chaos. Today, a look back at one of darkest and most difficult chapters in Jordan’s incredible career: Why he stepped away from the game he loved so much, and how he was able to return, triumphant.
Special thanks to our guests: Terry Francona, two-time World Series champion manager; Sam Smith, writer for Bulls.com and author of “The Jordan Rules”; and Roland Lazenby, author of "Michael Jordan: The Life," and whose biography of Magic Johnson will be out in October 2023.
The No. 8 Seed Knicks Reach the ’99 Finals
Inside Madison Square Garden, Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals tips off between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers. Hardly anyone expected this Knicks squad to be here — a lockout and a roster overhaul created a season of chaos. Yet somehow, New York stands just one win away from a shot at the title.
Today, the Knicks become the first-ever No. 8 seed to make it to the NBA Finals. How do they overcome so much in-season chaos? And can they capture their first championship since 1973?
Special thanks to our guest: Paul Knepper, Knicks superfan and author of “Knicks of the Nineties: Ewing, Oakley, Starks and the Brawlers That Almost Won It All.”
The World's Deadliest Race
Every year, a little island off the English coast is home to the world’s most dangerous race: the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. Motorcyclists zip through the course going more than 200 miles per hour, navigating hairpin turns — all on public roads.
Today, one of the greatest racers in Isle of Man TT history passes away, when nine-time champion David Jefferies becomes the event’s 206th casualty. How does the TT become such a deadly competition? And how can a race be held every year where it’s almost expected that someone will die?
Special thanks to our guests: Neil Collier, filmmaker of a short series about the Isle of Man for the New York Times; Mat Oxley, a journalist, author, and Isle of Man TT winner; and Paul Phillips, head of motorsport for the Isle of Man government's Department for Enterprise, which delivers the Isle of Man TT race.
Moneymaker Wins the World Series of Poker (feat. Chris Moneymaker)
May 23, 2003. Chris Moneymaker is the last amateur standing. The 28-year-old Tennessee accountant has defied the odds and outlasted over 800 of the best players on the planet at the World Series of Poker, but that’s not enough. He finds himself at the Final Table, going for poker immortality.
Today, Chris Moneymaker wins the $2.5 million prize at the World Series of Poker, inspiring an entire generation of online players to join the poker gold rush. How did this amateur Internet poker player even wind up in this tournament, let alone winning it all?
Special thanks to our guests: Mori Eskandani, former professional poker player and head of Poker Go; Bart Hanson, poker player, commentator, and teacher through Crush Live Poker; and Chris Moneymaker, the winner of the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event.
Victor Wembanyama & the Boom-or-Bust NBA Lottery
May 16, 2023. If you were watching TV last night, you may have seen NBA history being made. A few ping-pong balls bounced around a lottery machine, and suddenly, the San Antonio Spurs won the first pick at the 2023 NBA Draft, which they’ll almost certainly use to draft a potential superstar from France named Victor Wembanyama.
Today, a look back at some of the most electrifying prospects the NBA has ever seen – from Hakeem Olajuwon to Patrick Ewing to LeBron James to Wembanyama – as well as the wild, and at times controversial, steps that teams have taken to secure their draft rights. How did the NBA come up with the current lottery system after decades of tweaking the rules? And how has tanking -- or the process of intentionally losing games -- complete reshaped the way NBA teams compete for championships?
Special thanks to our guests: Jake Fischer, senior NBA reporter for Yahoo Sports and author of “Built to Lose: How the NBA’s Tanking Era Changed the League Forever”; Rohan Nadkarni, NBA writer for Sports Illustrated; Brian Windhorst, ESPN NBA insider and author of “Return of the King” and “LeBron Inc.: The Making of a Billion Dollar Athlete”; Jeremy Woo, NBA Draft contributor for ESPN; and Dave Zarum, basketball historian and author of “NBA: 75.”
A.I. Defeats Humanity… at Chess
May 11th, 1997. The eyes of the world are focused on a chessboard. It's the decisive game of one of the most highly anticipated chess matches of the 20th century. The reigning world champion, Garry Kasparov, is agitated, furrowing his brow and clutching his face while he considers his next move. His opponent—unphased by the pressure—hums loudly from a nearby room.
Today, a legendary battle between arguably the greatest chess player that ever lived and a thinking machine. How does a computer master a very human game? And when they face off, who will come out on top?
Special thanks to our guests: Bruce Pandolfini, veteran chess teacher, author, and consultant on the Netflix series The Queens Gambit; Tom Standage, historian and editor of The Economist series The World Ahead; Murray Campbell, A.I. research scientist at IBM and creator of Deep Blue; and Feng Hsiung Hsu, system architect of Deep Blue and author of Behind Deep Blue: Building the Computer that Defeated the World Chess Champion.
The "We Believe" Warriors
May 3rd, 2007. Oracle Arena is rocking. In Oakland, 20,000 fans, all wearing mustard-yellow t-shirts with the slogan “We Believe,” are amped. It’s so loud that the opposing players can’t even hear each other in the huddle.
That’s because the 2007 Golden State Warriors are on the verge of pulling off the greatest upset in the history of the NBA playoffs.
Today, the Warriors square off against the Dallas Mavericks, a 67-win team led by league MVP Dirk Nowitzki. It’s a matchup that pretty much everyone – from the media, to the fans, to the Las Vegas sportsbooks – agrees they should lose. How are the We Believe Warriors able to take down a juggernaut? And even though they don’t come close to winning a title, how is this team more impactful on today’s NBA than most championship teams?
Special thanks to our guests: Adonal Foyle, 13-year NBA veteran, and center for the 2007 “We Believe” Warriors; Logan Murdock, writer for The Ringer and co-host of the NBA podcast “Real Ones”; Marcus Thompson, lead columnist covering the Bay Area for The Athletic, and author of “Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry”; and Tyler Puryear, Mike Guardabascio, and John Nichols, the trio behind the “Jenkins and Jonez” NBA podcast.
The NFL Draft Premieres on ESPN (feat. Mina Kimes & Peter King)
April 29, 1980. An upstart media company has proposed a strange idea to the NFL: broadcast the pro football draft live on TV. Nobody really paid much attention to the NFL Draft before, but with the young ESPN still finding its voice, it was a perfect opportunity.
Today, ESPN broadcasts the NFL Draft for the first time. How did a guy reading a list of names become must-see TV? And how does this experimental telecast turn the NFL into a year-round phenomenon?
Special thanks to our guests: Upton Bell, former New England Patriots general manager and son of Bert Bell, founder of the NFL Draft; Richard Deitsch, senior writer covering sports media for The Athletic; Craig Ellenport, senior editor at Sports Illustrated; Mina Kimes, ESPN NFL analyst and host of “The Mina Kimes Show Featuring Lenny”; Peter King, NBC Sports NFL columnist; and Charles McDonald, Yahoo Sports NFL columnist and host of “The Exempt List” podcast.
Rosie Ruiz Scams the Boston Marathon
April 21, 1980. The Boston Marathon, the oldest and arguably most prestigious marathon in the world, attracts the sport’s top professional runners. So, when a completely unknown woman named Rosie Ruiz, with barely any marathoning experience, crosses the finish line first, many in the media and racing community are shocked… and more than a little suspicious.
Over the next seven days, a massive investigation is launched, and eventually a story filled with some genuinely bizarre twists and turns is uncovered.
Today, Rosie Ruiz becomes the most infamous cheater in marathon history. How did the race organizers eventually catch her in the act? And at a fundamental level, why did she do it?
Special thanks to our guests: Chris Chavez, founder of CitiusMag.com and host of the Citius Mag podcast; Paul Clerici, author of several books on long-distance running, including “Boston Marathon: History by the Mile” and “Images of Modern America: the Boston Marathon”; and Bill Rodgers, four-time winner of both the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon.
Tiger Woods & Jack Nicklaus Defy Age at the Masters
April 13, 1986. In honor of the Masters Invitational Tournament, we revisit two of its most famous finishes. First, an aging Jack Nicklaus attempts to become the Masters' oldest champion. Then, 11 years later to the day, Tiger Woods seeks to become the youngest ever to win the Masters' coveted green jacket.
Today, two of the greatest golfers ever aim to overcome expectations in their sport's most prestigious event. Can either pull off a victory? And how do two players a generation apart cope with the pressure?
Special thanks to our guests: Tom Clavin, writer and author of "One for the Ages, Jack Nicklaus in the 1986 Masters"; Armen Keteyian, co-author of the biography "Tiger Woods"; Tom Kite, former professional golfer and one-time U.S. Open champion; and Sean Zak, senior writer with Golf.com and Golf Magazine.
Ping Pong Diplomacy
April 10, 1971. A team of ping pong players leaves Hong Kong to step across a border and become the first group of Americans welcomed to China in over 20 years. These competitors find themselves becoming unlikely diplomats at the center of a media frenzy, and at the heart of one of the 20th century’s major geopolitical shifts. How did table tennis turn into a powerful tool of foreign policy? And how did these athletes leave an impact that went far beyond the ping pong table?
Special thanks to our guests: professional table tennis athletes Judy Hoarfrost, Olga Soltesz, and Connie Sweeris; Yafeng Xia, senior professor of social science at Long Island University Brooklyn, and author of Negotiating with the Enemy: U.S.-China Talks during the Cold War, 1949-1972; and Nicholas Griffin, author of Ping Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World.
Baseball's Newest (and Oldest) Rule Changes
March 27, 1986. Decades before pitch clocks and bigger bases, Peter Ueberroth, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, has to make a decision. He knows he’s going to upset players and fans, but something has to change. The World Series, the biggest baseball stage, should be fair for both sides. They need to play by the same rules.
With all the MLB rule changes coming this year, we’re taking a look back at the constant adjustments the game has made to be more competitive, more popular, and more fun. If baseball is always changing, why is everyone annoyed when changes happen? And how do the rule changes in 2023 fit into the history of America’s pastime?
Special thanks to our guests: Anthony Castrovince, MLB.com columnist and MLB Network contributor; Steven Goldman, consulting editor of Baseball Prospectus and host of "The Infinite Inning," a baseball history podcast; and Gary Thorne, longtime MLB broadcaster.
Magic & Bird Take Over March Madness
March 26, 1979. Magic Johnson. Larry Bird. The pair of basketball superstars have reached the biggest moment in their young careers: the NCAA Tournament championship. Magic goes to greet Bird with a pre-game hug… but he’s not having it. “It’s on now,” says Johnson.
Today, two of the greatest basketball players ever face off for college hoops’ crown. Who wins this legendary matchup? And with their own distinct paths to stardom, how do Magic and Bird come together to reshape the game?
Special thanks to our guests: Howard Bryant, senior writer at ESPN; Len DeLuca, former executive at CBS Sports and ESPN; Jackie MacMullan, co-author of “When the Game Was Ours,” alongside Larry Bird and Magic Johnson; and Doug Merlino, author of “The Crossover: A Brief History of Basketball and Race.”
Serena and Venus Williams Boycott Indian Wells
March 17, 2001. Serena Williams is getting booed. She’s trying to prepare to face Kim Clijsters in the finals of the prestigious annual tennis tournament at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, but when her name is announced before the match, 14,000-plus audience members begin loudly jeering her every move. This angry mob mentality continues throughout the match, while her older sister, Venus, and father, Richard, can only watch from the stands.
Today, an all-time great, at just 19 years old, faces the most hostile playing environment of her career. Why did this American crowd turn on Serena Williams and her family? And was she able to rise above the noise and win?
Special thanks to our guests: Merlisa Lawrence Corbett, longtime sports journalist and author of “Serena Williams: Tennis Champion, Sports Legend, and Cultural Heroine,” and John Thrasher, A+E senior producer and owner of @SerenaNews.
An NBA Star Pays the Price for Speaking Out
March 12, 1996. The Denver Nugget's leading scorer, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, is shooting around before the big game tonight. Strangely, a large crowd of reporters is gathering. It turns out, they’re here to ask him one big question: what do you think about the American Flag?
Today, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf faces consequences for not standing during the national anthem. Twenty years before Colin Kaepernick, why does Abdul-Rauf make this controversial choice? And how does he fit into the long line of athletes who have chosen to take a stand?
Special thanks to our guests: Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, former NBA player, writer and activist; Jesse Washington, senior writer at ESPN’s Andscape; Gotham Chopra, director of the SHOWTIME documentary series “Shut Up and Dribble”; Chris Herring, senior NBA writer at Sports Illustrated and author of “Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks”; and Dave Zirin, the sports editor at the Nation Magazine and host of the “Edge of Sports” podcast.
Introducing: American Football (Episode 1: Canton, Ohio)
A new History Channel podcast, American Football is the untold tale of the rough-and-tumble origins of the National Football League. Produced and presented by Michael Strahan and narrated by actress and pro football enthusiast Kate Mara, this podcast reaches back into the past to explain the dirty, bloody, and tumultuous beginnings of America's most popular sport.
In this first episode, the sport of American football begins as a stand-in for war – a place where young men at elite colleges could prove their mettle fighting on the gridiron.
Wilt Chamberlain Breaks Basketball
March 2, 1962. Wilt Chamberlain, the NBA’s biggest star, makes the long drive out to Hershey, PA. There’s no pro basketball team in Hershey, but tonight, the town made famous for its chocolate is hosting a matchup between the Philadelphia Warriors and the New York Knicks. Chamberlain is Philly’s biggest star and he’s having a great season, but he partied hard the night before. Which makes what happens next all the more incredible.
Today, Wilt Chamberlain leads the Warriors against the Knicks in one of the most unforgettable individual performances in the history of team sports. How did the unique combination of circumstances set the stage for his truly unique achievement? And how does the NBA fundamentally change basketball to all but ensure that it will never happen again?
Special thanks to our guests: Ron Pollack, head statistician for the Philadelphia 76ers, Frank Fitzpatrick, former sportswriter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and author of “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: The Basketball Game That Changed American Sports,” and Gary Pomerantz, author of “Wilt, 1962,” and “The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters In The End.”
A Baseball Pioneer Finds His Way Behind Home Plate
February 20, 1951 (July 1951). Emmett Ashford is waiting inside the ballpark of the Mexicali Eagles. At 36 years old, he's toiled around the United States, working toward his goal of becoming a professional umpire. Finally, he lands a tryout just south of the border to make it happen. But there's a problem: the other umpires needed to play the game are white— they won't take the field with a Black man.
Today, Emmett Ashford attempts to become the first Black umpire in organized baseball. Can he make it happen? And if so, can he overcome barriers to make it all the way to the majors?
Special thanks to our guests: Raymond Bell, the executive producer of “Called Up: The Emmett Ashford Story” and Doug Harris, the producer, director and editor of the same film; Adrienne Bratton, the daughter of Emmett Ashford; and Mark Armour, a baseball historian.
Replay: Black Baseball Goes Pro (from History This Week)
Feb 13, 1920. For over thirty years, Black baseball players have been locked out of the major leagues. So on this day in Kansas City, Rube Foster, a former pitcher and now a team owner, is trying to make his own league just for Black players. He has gathered owners of other Black baseball teams, who currently play each other in one-off matchups or face independent teams in random games around the country. But Foster wants them to get organized, and soon, the Negro National League would be born. But up to this point, how did Black baseball survive after segregation became the unofficial policy of the major leagues? And how did Black players, owners, and managers join together to create something that no baseball fan could ignore?
Diane Crump Rides Into History
February 7, 1969. Diane Crump arrives at Hialeah Racetrack in Miami, Florida, and all eyes are on her. She’s a jockey, someone who races horses, but now she’s hoping to become the first woman in American history to ride in an officially sanctioned, professional pari-mutuel horse race. For decades, women have been barred from the sport. And over the last year, as public pressure for horse racing to become more inclusive has intensified, women hoping to break into the sport have endured insults, threats, and boycotts from their male counterparts.
Today, Diane Crump attempts to make sports history, despite the long odds against her. Why was the horse racing establishment so committed to keeping women out of their sport? And how did a group of dedicated young women help each other to break down the barrier?
Special thanks to our guests: Diane Crump and Barbara Jo Rubin, two of the very first female professional jockeys in the United States.
Super Bowl Special: The First Black QB in the Super Bowl (feat. Doug Williams)
January 31, 1988. Quarterback Doug Williams steps onto the field in San Diego, California for the biggest game of his life. He's moments away from leading Washington into Super Bowl XXII against the John Elway-led Denver Broncos.
Today, Doug Williams becomes the first Black quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Can he win it, too? His breakthrough has paved the way for Super Bowl LVII, where two Black quarterbacks—Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes—will face off for the first time in championship history in 2023.
We ask a roundtable of experts: why have Black quarterbacks been a rarity throughout the history of pro football? And in a conversation with Doug Williams himself, what does it mean to be a pioneer for so many Black quarterbacks to come?
Special thanks to our guests Kenneth Shropshire, Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School; Bill Carroll, assistant director at the Family Legacy Foundation; Cyrus Mehri, civil rights attorney and co-founder of the Fritz Pollard Alliance; and Doug Williams, former NFL quarterback and longtime NFL personnel executive.
Björn Borg Shocks The Tennis World
January 23rd, 1983. Björn Borg, one of the top tennis players in the world, has become a global icon. But Borg hasn’t played in any of the sport’s major tournaments for the last year, and while on vacation in Nepal with his family, rumors in the media circulate about everything from his health to the status of his marriage.
Today, Borg decides that he can’t wait until he returns to New York City to address the reporters. At an impromptu gathering of the press in Kathmandu, Borg makes an announcement that sends shockwaves through the tennis world. How did he become one of the most popular athletes on Earth? And what were the key moments that led to this stunning decision?
Special thanks to our guests: Steve Flink, author of “The Greatest Tennis Matches of the 20th Century” and “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time,” Mark “Scoop” Malinowski, author of “Facing Björn Borg,” and John Lloyd, former professional tennis player and BBC tennis broadcaster.
Gambling Destroys New York City College Basketball
Under the harsh lights of Madison Square Garden, the Manhattan College basketball team loses to DePaul University. But this loss means that all is going to plan for law enforcement, as they make their next move.
Later that night, police arrest three gamblers and two men affiliated with Manhattan College. These arrests are just the beginning of an enormous scandal.
Today, the gambling phenomenon plaguing college basketball nationwide begins to crumble. How were gamblers able to attract players from the nation’s most prominent programs into their scheme? And when the greed goes too far, how does it all come crashing down?
Special thanks to Matthew Goodman, author of The City Game: Triumph, Scandal, and a Legendary Basketball Team.
The NBA All-Star Boycott
January 14, 1964. Thousands of basketball fans have braved a massive snowstorm in Boston to watch the biggest names in basketball – from Bill Russell to Oscar Robertson to Elgin Baylor – in the 14th annual NBA All-Star Game.
But just ten minutes before the game is supposed to start, the players are nowhere to be found. The court is empty. Fans stomp their feet in frustration. Little do they know that all 20 NBA All-Stars have crammed into one locker room and barricaded the door, refusing to leave until the team owners agree to their demands.
Today, the 1963-64 All-Stars take an important – but extremely risky – stand against the rich and powerful men who run the National Basketball Association. What were these players fighting for? And why was the 1964 All-Star Game the perfect setting to stage one of the most important protests in sports history?
Special thanks to our guests: Dave Zarum, author of NBA 75: The Definitive History, Rich Kraetsch and Jason Mann, co-hosts of the Over and Back Classic NBA Podcast, and NBA legend Wayne Embry, a Hall of Famer and NBA All-Star from 1961 to 1965.
The Flying Finn Burns Out
January 6, 1925. Cigar smoke thickens the air inside Madison Square Garden. The New York City arena is packed to the brim, ready to watch the greatest runner in the world.
27-year-old Paavo Nurmi exploded onto the scene at the 1920 Olympics, winning three gold medals for Finland. In 1924, he did even better, winning five more. In the process, he became one of the world’s most famous athletes.
Today, Paavo Nurmi’s accomplishments have offered him the unique opportunity to go on a massive running tour of the United States. How does someone once considered a “slow trudger” outrun the world? And how does this grueling American tour change the course of his career?
Special thanks to our guests: Chris Turner, director of the heritage department of World Athletics; Roger Robinson, writer and author on the subject of long-distance running; Jari Salonen, CEO of the non-profit Paavo Nurmi Turku Oy; and Kalle Virtapohja, expert on Paavo Nurmi and sports history author.
Green Bay’s First Lambeau Leap
December 26th, 1993. It feels like 20 below zero on the “Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field”. The Packers stand on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time in years. Though it might surprise fans now, back in the early 90s, this team and its loyal fans are desperate for even a taste of the postseason. But after decades of mishaps, bad luck, and, according to the team’s historian, “terrible personnel decisions,” all of that is about to change.
Today, two Packers legends—Reggie White and LeRoy Butler—team up to create one of the most iconic plays, and iconic celebrations, in NFL history. For the Packers, this marks the beginning of a new attitude, direction, and era for one of the league’s oldest teams.How, after unprecedented success in the 1960s, did this team become the NFL’s laughingstock? And how did the Lambeau Leap become the definitive end to a chapter the Packers would like to forget?
Special thanks to our guests: Edgar Bennett, former Packers running back and current coach for the Las Vegas Raiders, Pete Dougherty, columnist for the Green Bay Press Gazette, and Cliff Christl, team historian for the Green Bay Packers, and author of “The Greatest Story In Sports: Green Bay Packers 1919 to 2019.”
WWI Soldiers Find Peace in Football
December 24, 1914. Soldiers are stuck in cold, wet trenches on either side of the conflict across the Western Front. The Great War has just begun and it’s their first Christmas away from home.
On the holiday’s eve, one man sees a light coming from the German’s side. A British soldier recalled, “With ears strained, I listened, and then all down our line of trenches, there came to our ears a greeting unique in war: ‘English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas!’”
Today, World War I comes to a halt as an unofficial ceasefire breaks out across the northeastern border of France. Why do opposing nations choose to lay down their arms? And when they cross the battlefield, how do sports help them meet as friends?
Special thanks to our guest, Mike Hill, author of The Christmas Truce By The Men Who Took Part: Letters From The 1914 Ceasefire On The Western Front.
The Man Who Saved Man U
December 19, 1931. Walter Crickmer, the team secretary for a struggling Manchester United, is making the lonely walk up a long driveway to meet with a local businessman by the name of James W. Gibson. Though Gibson has no affiliation with the team and isn't even a fan of the sport, he's been targeted as the man to save Manchester United. But Gibson is not offering the club a simple loan; he's got big plans for the future that will come to be known as "The Gibson Guarantee.
Why was Manchester United in such a dire financial position? And how did Gibson manage to not only become the team's primary investor, but also steward the team into unparalleled success that continues nearly a century later?
Specials thanks to our guests. Dr. Gary James, organizer of the International Football History conference and author of "Manchester: A Football History," Jim White, author of "Manchester United: The Biography," Jon Reeves, author of "The Battle for Manchester", and Alan Embling, the great-nephew of James W. Gibson.
Canada’s Oldest Rivals Battle on the Ice
December 9, 1953. In downtown Toronto, the only two Canadian squads in the NHL face off. The Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs have a long and bitter rivalry, and this game is no exception. It’s already testy as players on both sides rack up penalty after penalty in the first two periods. But by the third, all hell breaks loose.
Today, Canada’s oldest teams come together for the roughest match ever between the NHL’s most storied rivals. What led to the passionate, long-standing conflict between the cities and their sports teams? And more than 100 years later, is the oldest rivalry in hockey dead?
Special thanks to our guests Lance Hornby, author of “Toronto and The Maple Leafs: A City and its Team,” D’Arcy Jenish, author of "The Montreal Canadiens: 100 Years of Glory,” Frank Condron, a lifelong Maple Leafs Fan, Jeff Hoard, a lifelong Canadiens fan, and Dr. Glen Duerr, professor of International Studies at Cedarville University.
The Golden Age of Roller Derby
November 29, 1948. Thousands of screaming fans are packed inside New York City’s 69th Regiment Armory, eyes peeled on the wooden oval track, shining under the spotlights. Roller derby is just a few years old, but this new sport already has a huge fan base. And now, for the first time ever, roller derby will be broadcast to the masses – on television. Fans have never seen anything like it: the speed, the violence, and the fact that men and women compete alongside each other as teammates.
Today, how did the so-called “golden era” of roller derby come about, going from a Depression-era sideshow to a multi-million-dollar empire? And how did this sport challenge traditions of athletics and society?
Special thanks to our guests: Michella Marino, author of “Roller Derby, the History of an American Sport.” Shari Gammon Cantal, granddaughter of roller derby legend Gerry Murray. Steve Seltzer, grandson of roller derby entrepreneur Leo Seltzer. And Nick Scopas, member of the Roller Derby Hall of Fame.
The Marshall University Plane Crash
November 14, 1970. Dozens of football players, coaches, and local boosters from Marshall University board an airplane to return home after a 17-14 loss to East Carolina. But at 7:36pm, while trying to land at Tri-State Airport in Huntingon, West Virginia, the plane crashes, killing all 75 people on board. It’s still the deadliest tragedy to affect any sports team—amateur or professional—in American history. How did the Marshall University community cope with this devastation? And how was the Thundering Herd football team able to succeed on the field in the years to come?
Special thanks to our guests: Patrick Garbin, college football journalist and co-author of A Coach In Progress, Lori Thompson, the head of special collections at Marshall University, Lindsey Harper, the university archivist at Marshall University, Steve Cotton, Marshall football radio broadcaster, and Kit Darby, an aviation expert and instructor.
Jackie Robinson Tries Out for the Majors (History This Week Replay)
April 16, 1945. Jackie Robinson is ready. He’s won a tryout with the Boston Red Sox, and if he makes the team, he will become the first player to break baseball’s long-standing racial divide. Robinson puts his supreme athletic skills on full display… but never hears back from the Red Sox. The tryout was just for show. It’s not the first deception or indignity that Robinson has endured because of his race. But ultimately, nothing could stop him from breaking baseball’s color line. What does his experience reveal about the history of race in America? And how did Robinson’s life prepare him for his historic achievement?
Special thanks to Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN and author of Full Dissidence: Notes from an Uneven Playing Field; Ralph Carhart, baseball historian and editor of the upcoming book Not an Easy Tale to Tell: Jackie Robinson on the Page, Stage, and Screen; and Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies at Penn State and co-host of the sports podcast Burn it All Down and host of season three of American Prodigies: Black Girls in Gymnastics.
The Birth of Cheer
November 6, 1869. 25 Princeton students hop on the 10 o’clock train to Rutgers. They’re heading to compete in the first-ever intercollegiate football game. This isn’t just a milestone in the history of American sports—it also marks the birth of football culture on the sidelines. Because a group of Princeton students, watching the game, breaks into a cheer known as the “Princeton locomotive.” They’re considered the first cheerleaders. How did jumping for joy turn into a big business? And how did cheerleaders go from the epitome of masculinity to femininity—to now, challenging the entire role of gender in sports?
Special thanks to our guests, Dr. Natalie Adams, professor at the University of Alabama and co-author of Cheerleader! An American Icon, and Kimberly Jackson-Jones, former Raiderette and current teacher at Troy High School.
The Blue Jays Take On America
October 24, 1992. It's Game 6 of the World Series: Atlanta Braves versus the Toronto Blue Jays. The Canadian Squad is just a few outs from winning their first-ever major sports championship outside of hockey. Can they pull it off?
The Toronto Blue Jays have gained a reputation in the past decade as chokers. After its rocky early years, the lovable underdogs from up north have become perpetual division winners that can't quite get over the hump.
Today, the Toronto Blue Jays have a chance to create a new reputation. Will they get it done? And to a nation defined by hockey, what would a baseball championship really mean?
Special thanks to our guests Frank Condron, lifelong Blue Jays fan, Adrian Fung, author of the book “We Are, We Can, We Will: the 1992 World Champion Toronto Blue Jays, Pat Gillick, former General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, Pat McDonald, comedian, and lifelong Blue Jays fan, and Bob Elliott, longtime Blue Jays writer for the Toronto Sun.
The NBA Forces a Fit Check
October 17, 2005. The NBA is going through massive changes. Michael Jordan is retired (again), and the league is getting younger. Stars like Allen Iverson represent the rise of hip-hop culture, which David Stern blames for the league’s dwindling viewership. His solution? Today, Stern enacts a dress code, including collared shirts and sports coats – an unprecedented rule in American sports history.
What provokes Stern to make this move? How does the league react? And despite the initial outrage and backlash, how do the players eventually win this fight?
Special thanks to our guests: Dave Zarum, author of NBA 75: The Definitive History; Jordan Ligons, NBA and WNBA writer and co-host of the Spinsters basketball podcast; Kesha McLeod, personal stylist to the stars, including Serena Williams, PJ Tucker, Chris Bosh, and Giannis Antekounmpo; and Dr. Todd Boyd, Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Jim Thorpe's Lost Gold (w/ History This Week)
October 13, 1982. The announcement came from Switzerland, across the world from where Jim Thorpe was raised on Indian territory in Oklahoma. In his time, Thorpe was the most popular athlete in the world, winning two gold medals at the 1912 Olympics. But for a variety of reasons—including his Native American heritage—those medals were stripped away. But today, though Thorpe passed away years earlier, his children will receive the medals that their father rightly won.
In a special collaboration with our sibling podcast, History This Week, we seek to answer: how does Jim Thorpe rise from an Indian boarding school to become “The Greatest Athlete of All Time"? And why was his legacy almost destroyed?
Special thanks to Sunnie Clahchischiligi, freelance journalist and PhD candidate in Cultural, Indigenous, and Navajo Rhetoric at the University of New Mexico; and David Maraniss, associate editor at the Washington Post and author of Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe.
Sandy Koufax’s Yom Kippur Stand
October 6, 1965. For baseball fans, it’s the most sacred time of the year: the World Series. The Dodgers are in Minneapolis to face off against the Minnesota Twins in Game 1. But their star pitcher, Sandy Koufax, isn’t on the mound. Because October 6 is sacred for another reason—it’s Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. Who is Sandy Koufax? And how did he fundamentally shape baseball and American Jewish life?
Special thanks to our guests: Shawn Green, former MLB right fielder and founder of the tech company Greenfly; Mark Langill, Dodgers team historian; Jane Leavy, author of Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy; and Jacob Steinmetz, pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
Tony Hawk's Perfect Storm (feat. Tony Hawk)
September 29, 1999. Mario Kart 64, The Legend of Zelda, and Donkey Kong sit atop the gaming world. A new franchise, though, is about to explode onto the scene: Tony Hawk Pro Skater.
The hype wave has been building thanks to a free demo. And then at the X-Games – Tony Hawk lands the 900. All of the sudden, Hawk and skateboarding are thrust into the national spotlight. It's at this perfect moment the game is released. Within a few months, Tony Hawk Pro Skater becomes a national best-seller, and twenty-three years later the game has achieved unimaginable success, leading to 12 subsequent versions.
Today, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater makes its global debut. What made this game uniquely special? And what legacy did it leave?
Special thanks to our guests; Tony Hawk, pro skateboarder; Scott Pease, former Studio Development Director at Neversoft Entertainment; Mick West, co-founder of Neversoft Entertainment; Ludvig Gür, director of Pretending I’m A Superman; and Kofie Yeboah, engagement editor at Secret Base.
Tom Brady's Lucky Break
September 23, 2001. In his first game back after the tragic events of September 11th, Drew Bledsoe -- the highest paid quarterback in the NFL and the undisputed face of the New England Patriots -- is hoping to lead his team to his second Super Bowl appearance. But a brutal fourth quarter hit lands Bledsoe in the hospital, and his backup -- a relatively unknown late-round draft pick -- comes in and changes the fortunes of the franchise forever. His name is Tom Brady.
How did Brady handle being thrust into the spotlight under such pressurized conditions? How did Bledsoe handle Brady's near-instant success? And what was it about Brady's skills, both on and off the field, that contributed to him becoming the most decorated quarterback in NFL history?
Special thanks to our guests: Dan Shaughnessy, longtime Boston Globe sports columnist, Michael Smith, former ESPN and the Boston Globe sportswriter and now host of Brother From Another on Peacock, and Chad Brown, founder of Profile, a behavioral analysis service used by NFL teams during the NFL Draft.
Special thanks to our guests John Eisenberg, author of The League, and Ken Crippen, the president and former executive director of the Professional Football Researcher's Association.
The Birth of the NFL
September 17, 1920. Football in America has arrived. Team after team joins the growing landscape: the Muncie Flyers, the Rock Island Independents, the Decatur Staleys. While more teams are waiting in the wings, the on-field product is a bit of a mess.
Few fans are interested, players are on shaky contracts, and—maybe most importantly—the game itself is boring. At a car dealership in Canton, Ohio, team representatives are gathered today with the ambitious goal of fixing football.
Today, the precursor to the NFL is established. How did a small, underfunded football league, based largely in east coast cities and midwestern factory towns, morph into the NFL, a pop culture juggernaut that is now the richest sports league in the world?
Special thanks to our guests John Eisenberg, author of The League, and Ken Crippen, the president and former executive director of the Professional Football Researcher's Association.
Deion Sanders Lights Up Atlanta
September 10, 1989. The Atlanta Falcons are excited to witness the debut of their highly-anticipated rookie, whom they took fifth overall in the NFL Draft earlier that year. He’s young, he’s flamboyant, and he has not one, but two already-famous nicknames: Neon Deion and Prime Time. This is Atlanta’s first introduction to Deion Sanders, who would become a sports and cultural icon for the city, as he’d eventually call Atlanta home for the early parts of his professional football and baseball careers. But along with the money, endorsements, and fame come scrutiny, misperceptions, and controversy, particularly when he attempts the unprecedented move of playing in an NFL and MLB game on the same day.
Today, Deion Sanders makes his professional football debut. Why did he draw so much criticism from certain media members? And what made Deion Sanders a unique figure in sports history?
Special thanks to our guests: Chris Miller, quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons from 1987-93; Mark Bradley, columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Anne Scearce, former client services manager for Nike; Jimmy Raye II, NFL coach from 1977-2013; and Sid Bream, former first baseman for the Atlanta Braves.
Appalachian State vs. Goliath
September 1, 2007. A roaring crowd overlooks a football field in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The top-ranked University of Michigan team is going up against a small North Carolina school, Appalachian State University. Michigan paid App State to come to town... and lose. And yet, things have not gone as planned. Michigan trails by two points with just six seconds left in the game. They're positioned to kick a game-winning field goal, and the win all but certain. Today, David takes on Goliath. Can Appalachian State go into the Big House and pull off one of the biggest upsets in sports history? And how does this one game change the trajectory of a small North Carolina college town for years to come?
Special thanks to David Jackson, former Appalachian State University play-by-play announcer; Jeff Dillman, former Appalachian State University strength and conditioning coach; CoCo Hillary, former Appalachian State University wide receiver; John Holt, former Appalachian State University right guard; Jay Sutton, former Appalachian State University associate athletic director; Charles Davis, former Big 10 lead analyst; Julian Rauch, former Appalachian State University kicker; and David Marmins and Steven Feit, co-authors of the book Appalachian State Silences The Big House.
Trans Rights Take Center Court at the U.S. Open
August 27, 1976. Renee Richards expects to play tennis at this year’s U.S. Open. Coming off several impressive performances in top amateur tournaments, she wants to try her hand against the best competition in the world. But today, shortly before the tournament is set to begin, the USTA bars her from playing on the basis of her gender identity. A media firestorm and a precedent-setting lawsuit soon followed, changing the landscape for trans athletes for generations to come. Why did the U.S. Open initially decide to keep Renee Richards from competing, only to reverse its decision 11 months later? And how does her landmark court case continue to impact trans athletes and other marginalized groups to this day?
Special thanks to our guests; Joanna Harper, Ph.D researcher in transgender athletic performance at Loughborough University, author Sporting Gender: The History, Science, and Stories of Transgender and Intersex Athletes; Karleigh Webb, writer and contributor for SB Nation’s Outsports.com and host of the Trans Sporter Room Podcast; and Schuyler Bailar, a gender literacy and transgender advocate and educator, and creator of LaneChanger, an online gender literacy learning series.
The Longest Free Fall
August 16, 1960. Captain Joe Kittinger steps into the passenger compartment of a balloon. He's preparing to travel higher than anyone has ever been in open-air: more than 100,000 feet. From there, he plans to jump. Today, Joe Kittinger sets the unofficial record for longest and highest parachute jump along with the longest free fall in history. His success will change the future of space travel. What does Kittinger’s mission reveal about human’s ability to survive at altitudes never reached before? And will the mission be enough to inspire humans to travel beyond the Earth?
Special thanks to Colonel Joe Kittinger himself, and Craig Ryan, co-author of Come Up And Get Me: An Autobiography of Colonel Joe Kittinger.
Michael Phelps Dominates at Beijing
August 11, 2008. It's Day 3 of the Summer Olympics in Beijing, and Michael Phelps is ready. This is the 4x100 freestyle, a swim relay race where Phelps and his team will look to overcome the odds and win gold. But for Phelps, one gold medal isn't enough. He wants to win eight of them. But this race will prove to be his largest obstacle yet. Today, Michael Phelps at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. How did Phelps and his team execute their mission to break record after record? And how did these Olympics prove he might be the greatest athlete of all time?
Special thanks to our guests, Bob Bowman, the head swimming coach for Arizona State University and former coach of Michael Phelps and Team USA; Rowdy Gaines, three-time Olympic gold medalist and TV broadcaster; and Childs Walker, sports enterprise reporter for The Baltimore Sun.
The Fate of the Black Sox
August 2, 1921. Hundreds wait inside a Chicago courthouse for the verdict. Seven Chicago White Sox players are accused of intentionally throwing the World Series, losing on purpose to collect a payout. For decades, gambling has been a part of America's pastime, but this fix is too big to ignore. The nation feels betrayed, yet is transfixed by the scandal, spending months following the whirlwind case. Today, the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal comes to a head. How do these baseball players conspire to intentionally lose the World Series? And will their punishment be enough to root out gambling in the sport forever?
Special thanks to Charles Fountain, author of The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball, and Jacob Pomrenke, Director of Editorial Content for the Society of American Baseball Research.
One Inch Gives England Its Only World Cup
July 30th, 1966. England wins their first, and so far only, World Cup. And yet even today, over half a century later, one specific element of that victory is still viewed by many as one of the all-time most controversial sports moments. What led to the controversy? Will it ever be resolved? And how did the 1966 England soccer team revolutionize the on-field tactics of how the game would be played for decades to come?
Special thanks to our guests; John Stiles, a former professional footballer and son of 1966 England national team midfielder Nobby Stiles; David Tossell, who wrote biographies on Jimmy Greaves and Alan Ball, two key contributors to the 1966 team; and John Hughson, a professor of Sport and Cultural Studies at the University of Central Lancashire, and author of England and the 1966 World Cup, A Cultural History.
Three Boxers Take on the Cold War (A Partnership With Eclipsed)
July 19, 1980. Three young boxers are circling a track in front of thousands of people in downtown Moscow. Alberto Mercado, Jose Molina, and Luis Pizarro have found themselves as the sole representatives of Puerto Rico in this year’s controversial Summer Olympic Games. The young men are here in defiance of their own nation’s government and the government of the United States.
The U.S. and 64 other countries are boycotting the Summer Olympics this year. The decision is meant to disavow the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the year before. Puerto Rico is initially expected to boycott too, as an American territory. But they don’t.
Today, why do these three boxers make the controversial choice to go compete behind the Iron Curtain? And is it worth the risk to defy the United States?
Special thanks to Bijan Stephen and the Eclipsed podcast team.
The Land Speed Wars Reignite
July 17th, 1964. Donald Campbell climbs into the cockpit of the Bluebird CN7 in the Australian desert with one goal in mind: breaking the world land speed record. In doing so, he sets off two incredible years of drama and heart-stopping competition between rivals, families, and even corporations, thousands of miles away in the United States.
What incredible lengths did these competitors go to in order to win the never-ending arms race for the record? What propelled these men and women to such achievements? And what major innovation in the 1960s changed the world of speed forever?
Special thanks to our guests, Louise Ann Noeth, author of Bonneville Salt Flats, and Tim Arfons, professional racer and son of former world land speed record holder Arthur Arfons.
Lou Gehrig Says Goodbye
July 4, 1939. In front of more than 60,000 fans, Lou Gehrig steps up to the microphone. The “Iron Horse” had played in 2,130 consecutive games for the New York Yankees, manning first base in the Bronx for 17 seasons. But because of a debilitating yet little-known illness, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or ALS), Gehrig’s career is forced to come to an end. So on this day, “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day,” he’s asked to give an impromptu speech to thank Yankee fans for their years of support. Gehrig was legendarily shy—he never sought the spotlight—but what followed became one of the most famous speeches in American history. Today, how did Lou Gehrig become a legend in his own time? And what did it mean to have an athlete suffering from ALS consider himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth”?
Special thanks to Jonathan Eig, journalist and author of Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig.
The Dream Team Debuts Against the World
June 28th, 1992. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and more step onto the court in public for the very first time as teammates. They take center stage against Cuba, in their first tune-up before they would become a truly global phenomenon at the ’92 Olympics in Barcelona. This is the world’s introduction to the Dream Team.
Anyone who knew basketball had a pretty good idea that this team of future Hall-of-Famers would romp to a gold medal. But what they might not have known was the behind-the-scenes drama involved in putting together this legendary roster.
Anyone who knew basketball had a pretty good idea that this team of future Hall-of-Famers would romp to a gold medal. But what they might not have known was the behind-the-scenes drama involved in putting together this legendary roster.
Special thanks to our guests: Jack McCallum, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and author of the bestseller Dream Team, and Ken Rosenthal, senior writer for The Athletic who covered the Dream Team for the Baltimore Sun in 1992.
Title IX at 50 with Billie Jean King
June 23, 1972. President Richard Nixon’s men broke into the Watergate complex just six days earlier. He’s attempting some damage control, but in between meetings with his staff, Nixon signs a new bill into law – the Educational Amendments of 1972. He isn’t aware of it at the time, but Title IX of this law will change women’s sports forever. The bill’s passage comes after years of campaigning, and the most prominent face of this movement is one of the great athletes of her era: Billie Jean King. Today, Billie Jean King sits down with Sports History This Week to unpack her role in this monumental legislation. How did she use her platform to fight for gender equality in athletics? And after the passage of Title IX, how did she literally battle for women everywhere?
Special thanks to our guests: Billie Jean King, a champion of tennis and of equality, and Susan Ware, historian and author of Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women's Sports.