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Yesterday: Oddities in Philly sports history

How do you feel about the NBA’s in-season tournament?

This season, the league has created a tournament involving all 30 teams. The pool play portion finished up this week and there are now eight remaining teams who will vie for the inaugural NBA Cup.

Before this season began, teams were scheduled to play 80 games instead of the customary 82 to account for the knockout portion of the tournament. Teams that didn’t advance to the knockout phase will all have two extra games against other non-quarterfinal teams added to their schedule.

You the reader apparently feel pretty apathetic about the arrangement. In a recent Times News Facebook poll about the subject, 54% don’t watch the NBA, an apparent reason why the league has instituted the tournament to hype interest. Another 25% voted that they don’t care, 12% believe it is ridiculous, 8% think it’s good, and 1% are excited.

In this week’s version of my Yesterday column – reminiscing about sports and pop culture in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and sometimes before and beyond – I will look back at some of Philly’s oddities on the team and player fronts.

I also talk about Bob Seagren, go back to a time when baseball had two all-star games, and tell you what “rabbit ears” were.

Baseball’s Twist ... Along with the NBA, MLB dabbled with some uniqueness of its own.

From 1959 through 1962, the league held two All-Star Games. The National League gained five victories during the process, while the AL won three. The new format produced the first tie in the series in 1961.

Overall, there were a few notable individual performances. Willie Mays hit .414 during the eight games, and he scored the winning run front of his home fans at Candlestick Park in the first 1961 game.

One of the main reasons for the two games was to help develop a pension fund for the players. One of the main proponents for the cause was Phillies’ pitcher Robin Roberts. The players’ pension fund that began in 1947, initially was a modest amount for retired players.

Another Unusual Event ... In February 1973, ABC aired ‘Superstars,” which was a contest that featured 10 “superstar” athletes from their respective sports who competed in a number of traditional and nontraditional events.

Back then, seeing any pro player was special and especially outside their realm. This was something that was presumed to be really special. This also was a time when athletes would easily comply with this kind of competition.

Bob Seagren, the 1968 Olympic champion pole vaulter, dominated the competition. Seagren won the weightlifting, baseball hitting, the biking quarter mile and mile races, and the half-mile run. He topped the field with 49 points, and he won a then-high $39,700. Unbeknown to many, each of the athletes received a piece of land in Rotonda, Florida, which has accumulated nicely over the years.

Tennis star Rod Laver and race driver Peter Revson each won a heat for the 50-meter swimming event. Johnny Bench was disqualified for touching the bottom of the pool and also for walking at the end of the second lap. But Bench won the bowling event with a score of 131.

Noted Alphine skier Jean-Claude Killy finished second behind Seagren.

Who won the 100-yard dash? It wasn’t “Bullet” Bob Hayes, but it was then Washington Bullet Elvin “The Big E” Hayes, who clocked a time of 11.5.

After the initial competition caught fire with the ratings, the show ran until 2003. However, it did begin to lose some of its luster over the years, as we were all beginning to be mesmerized by the all sports cable network called ESPN in the late 70s.

Do you remember Kyle Rote Jr? He was a budding soccer superstar who was the first three-time winner of the competition, capturing crowns in ’74,’ 76, and ’77. However, “Superstars” continued to be dominated by track athletes as Renaldo Nehemiah won it from 1981-83 and also in ’86. Willie Gault was a double winner from 1989-90, and decathlon athlete Dave Johnson took home titles in 1993-94. Herschel Waler also claimed a double title in 1987 and ’88.

I remember O.J. Simpson winning it in 1975 as well as Greg Pruitt in 1979 and Charles White in 1980. And how about skier Wayne Grimditch in 1978?

UHF and Those Ears ... To further discuss some irregularities in our youth, do any of you miss the old “rabbit ears” we used to try and get those channels beyond the staple of channels 3, 6, and 10 (Imagine only having three channels to watch today?).

It was a true battle with flipping the dial every slow slightly to try and tune into a channel, seeking to focus it and then turning down the volume to reduce that static noise that ran until you had it totally aligned for your channel.

There always was the challenge of seeing if you could get channels other than Channel 39 and sometimes channel 12. I usually could pick up channel 17 to watch Big Five basketball, and also channel 48 to watch the roller derby and wrestling. Channel 48 also seemed to always have reruns of “The Munsters” and “The Flintstones.”

Once in a while, I could get channels 16 and 28 from the greater Wilkes-Barre Area, or some channel didn’t know from a different region, which truly made it intriguing. I had a small, portable TV in my room, and I did enjoy the struggle.

I believe the whole process truly made us appreciate the art of television. The adage “when less is more” worked well.

On the ice and ... In Philadelphia sports history, there have been some oddities through the years.

On Dec. 1, the Flyers shut out the Kansas City Scouts,10-0, as eight different players scored for the Flyers, and Bobby Clarke tied a franchise record for assists with four.

Who were the Kansas City Scouts? ... They were a hockey expansion franchise that began there in 1974 and lasted until 1976. From there, they moved to Colorado to become the Rockies, and then became the New Jersey Devils in 1982.

Do you recall ex-Flyer forward Simon Nolet, who was considered one of the Scouts’ cornerstones? Or former Pittsburgh goalie Dennis Herron? Their budding star at the time was forward Wilf Paiemont.

Eagles oddity ... In 1950, the Browns beat the Eagles, 13-7, in game in which they didn’t attempt a single pass, and accumulated only 69 yards of total offense. Cleveland’s lone score came via a pick six.

America’s game ... In 1998, a railing collapsed injuring eight cadets who were celebrating after Army had taken the lead late in the fourth quarter during the Army-Navy game at the Vet. That incident helped serve as precursor for the construction of Lincoln Financial Field and Citizens Bank Park.

Memory Lane ... Each week, I’ll look back at a former athlete, coach, manager or media personality from our yesterday.

Do you remember former Sixer John Q. Trapp? He was a member of the famed 1972-73 team that went 9-73 overall. In 39 games, Trapp averaged 11.7 points per game - the best output of his career. Trapp also played three seasons with the then San Diego Rockets, two with the Lakers, and one with the ABA Denver Rockets.

Trapp was definitely an oddity and one of the most controversial Philly figures. One time, he cursed extremely loudly after being taken out, and it was heard throughout a half-filled Spectrum. Trapp also reportedly had a gun on the bench in a game in Detroit and also allegedly drank a Coke spiked with bourbon during a game.

Feedback ... Your comments, thoughts, comments, and ideas are always welcomed at tnsports@tnonline.com.